Cover image for All of the above : a novel
All of the above : a novel

1st pbk. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown, 2008, c2006.
Physical Description:
234 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
Added Author:
Five urban middle school students, their teacher, and other community members relate how a school project to build the world's largest tetrahedron affects the lives of everyone involved.


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Based on a true story, All of the Above is the delightful and suspenseful story of four inner city students and their quest to build the world's largest tetrahedron. Weaving together the different personal stories of the kids, their teacher, and the community that surrounds them, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has written a vividly engaging story about the math, life and good-tasting barbecue. Filled with unexpected humor, poignant characters and quiet brilliance, All of the Above is a surprising gem.

Author Notes

A former teacher and museum historian, Shelley Pearsall is now a full-time writer. Her first novel, Trouble Don't Last , won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. She lives in Akron, Ohio.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pearsall's (Crooked River) engaging multi-voiced narrative presents an inspiring account (based on a true event) of four African-American seventh-graders who wind up in an after-school math club in Cleveland, Oh. Their white teacher, Mr. Collins, begins with a vague hope: that some of his class might lose their apathy by working together to build a Stage 7 tetrahedron composed of 16,384 pieces (besting a California school's Stage 6 construction). He offers a passing grade to James Harris III, an angry student flunking math, if he will help with the project. Outgoing Marcel's hardworking father (owner of the local Willy Q's Barbecue) curtails his son's participation because he needs his son's labor. Sharice, bright and sociable, makes helpful lists, organizes their Christmas party, yet suffers privately, severely neglected by "foster non-parent #5." Shy, smart Rhondell wonders if Mr. Collins's contest will bring her dream of college closer. Mr. Collins is no super-teacher-just a 20-year veteran trying to inspire a rowdy, at-risk class. The kids struggle with daunting problems, but they embrace the challenge. When vandals destroy their work-in-progress, they are devastated. It's the unlikely James who reinvigorates the group, using his artistic talents to guide the tetrahedron's color scheme. The kids (aided by Willy G and Rhondell's Aunt Asia's beauty salon colleagues) work into July to triumph. Seasoned with recipes from Willy G's, this tale sparkles as it unifies voices of pride, determination and hope. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) Fans of Andrew Clements's school stories will welcome this tale about a disillusioned middle-school math teacher and a handful of kids who decide to reach for the stars. Burned-out Mr. Collins, for reasons obscure even to himself, enlists four of his students in an afterschool club to build a giant tetrahedron composed of 16,384 smaller tetrahedrons to get themselves into the Guinness Book of World Records. The teacher is white, the students are black, and the setting is a gritty neighborhood in Cleveland. Each of the participants takes it in turn to tell the story, revealing their own lives and reasons for joining in. Sharice, for example, has no place to go after school since her latest ""foster non-parent"" ""doesn't allow anybody at home when she isn't there and since she isn't there most of the time, I'm not allowed to be there either."" Although details of the tetrahedron project itself are too fuzzy, the characters are sharply observed and distinctly voiced, and there's a good balance of comedy, drama, and middle-school life. An author's note tells a bit about tetrahedrons and the actual project on which the novel was based. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Everyone knows that Washington Middle School is a dead end and its students have no future. Then, Mr. Collins, the seventh-grade math teacher, inadvertently challenges several students to build a tetrahedron (a 3-D multiplane structure) to break the Guinness world record. The students feign disinterest, but gradually the idea takes hold, ultimately drawing in troublemakers and well-behaved kids, parents, relatives, and community members alike. Told in alternating chapters by Mr. Collins and four of his students, Pearsall's novel, based on a real event in 2002--is a delightful story about the power of a vision and the importance of a goal. The authentic voices of the students and the well-intentioned, supportive adults surrounding them illustrate all that is good about schools, family, friendship, and community. --Frances Bradburn Copyright 2006 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Exhausted by his efforts to teach math to apathetic middle schoolers, Mr. Collins proposes that his class attempt to build the world's largest tetrahedron structure. The resulting endeavor, described in alternating chapters by Mr. Collins and four of the students, builds more than geometry as readers come to see them as individuals and as a developing unit. They include artistic tough guy James Harris III, who insists that the individual tetrahedrons color coordinate; Marcel the Magnificent, who works vigorously at his father's barbecue grill; veteran foster child Sharice; and quietly ambitious Rhondell. Marcel's dad's recipes are sprinkled throughout. This novel is based on the true story of a Cleveland middle school tetrahedron built in 2002. Pearsall has a knack for creating strong narratives and characters that eschew predictability. While this solid, multivoiced offering is a hopeful one, the action is realistically gritty and true to its inner-city setting. The book may take a little hand-selling, but, like E. L. Konigsburg's The View from Saturday (S & S, 1996), it is a feel-good read.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Cynical inner-city seventh graders are challenged by an odd idea from a math teacher. Frustrated that his students do not seem the least bit interested in learning, Mr. Collins proposes a contest to build the world's largest tetrahedron. Several students show up for the first meeting, a few because they want to do something new. One picks math club over failing the class and another does not have anywhere else to go. Armed with reams of paper and glue sticks, the students begin building the huge structure piece by piece. However, the rainbow hued composition is not the only thing they are gluing together. As the weeks pass, they realize that they are forming something much more than a claim to a world record. They are building their lives. Recipes for barbeque sauce, cake and cornbread separate chapters, told in several alternating voices. Smart and fast-paced, this story inspires as well as entertains. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.